Ontario Construction News staff writer
The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing has rejected a request from Richmond Hill for a minister’s zoning order (MZO) to convert the lands between Highway 404 and Leslie, north of Stouffville Road, for industrial uses.
The land that the City of Richmond Hill was hoping to turn into industrial development is within the Greenbelt and protected under the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Act.
A proposal that was denied by the province was to expand the town’s settlement area into the agricultural and rural lands along the Leslie Street and Highway 404 corridor at its Feb. 26 meeting.
The proposed land use change would have allowed development on “countryside areas” designated to buffer the Oak Ridges Moraine from urban sprawl, according to the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan (2017).
Karen Cilevitz was one of two local councillors who voted against the MZO request.
“This decision is of paramount importance to the city, the region and the province, and bolsters the call from environmental groups and activists to ensure ongoing protections of the Greenbelt,” she wrote in an email reported in the Richmond Hill Liberal following the decision.
The Liberal obtained a Jan. 27 letter from Infrastructure Minister Steve Clark to Richmond Hill Mayor Dave Barrow.
“I am not prepared to consider making a zoning order to facilitate development in this area,” Clark wrote.
The claim was supported by Ontario Premier Doug Ford who spoke in an interview with yorkregion.com.
“We will never build on the Greenbelt,” Ford is reported saying in the interview.
The MZO for the Greenbelt lands was the second one requested by Richmond Hill council.
The ministry has approved a request for an order to fast-track residential developments up to 40 storeys on former employment lands at Major MacKenzie and Highway 404.